Cast: Vadivelu, Sada, Pradeep Rawat, Adithya Menon
Director: Yuvaraj Dhayalan
Rating: 1 and a1/2 star
Vadivelu's Eli strives to entertain and leave us suspended by thickening the plot, but ends up succeeding in neither. Director Yuvaraj Dhayalan's formula is made clear midway through the first half: have an interesting storyline that is engaging enough and isn't just a means to an end (comedy,) drop Vadivelu in the eye of this storm, provide him with a bunch of dues ex machina, and simultaneously have a number of side shows where Vadivelu can display his absurdities, unchecked. Unfortunately, the players of this movie have managed to tangle themselves with this formula so deeply that they never recover from it.
Eli is set in the Madras of the 1960s, and at a time when the sale and smoking of cigarettes were outlawed. Naturally, such a state provides much opportunity for the bootleggers and shady businessmen to hop on to the underground trade - not too dissimilar to the war on drugs. Amidst this predicament enters Eli (Vadivelu) - a thieving outcast with a penchant for churning out mildly amusing insults and over-the-top self-deprecation. The outcast soon becomes a spy as he is hired by the police officer (Adithya Menon) to seek out and report on a local gang, whose leader (Pradeep Rawat) indulges in all kinds of illegal activities, including the lucrative cigarette trade. With such a setting in place, the movie trod a number of dead ends before eventually running out of steam and falling flat.
Eli is one of those movies that don’t really make you contemplate on other aspects such as the camera work or the editing. You'd probably lose track of the number of unfunny scenes, and the dead end set pieces would soon start to grate you. It would have helped to restructure the film based on a more serious anti-hero than a villain, and played by a star who gets equal screen space, if not more than Vadivelu. The risks were high with Vadivelu's uninterrupted screen presence, and not a single check seems to have been in place to burst the wind from the bag when the movie was in the making. He gets a song sequence where he romances Sada and the duo dances for the classic Hindi song ‘Mere Sapnon Ki Rani’ from Bollywood blockbuster Aaradhana which had Superstar Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore in the lead.
Go have a watch if you are desperate to see Vadivelu on screen. Else, seek out a Jaishankar spy thriller from the 60s.